Joseph Knapp was born in Loveland, Colorado in 1900. He had a close association with the town of Glen Haven from a young age and referred to Glen Haven as his ‘spiritual home’. He shared this historical account of the town in order that others who love Glen Haven may better understand how the present has grown out of the past.
Location of Glen Haven
Glen Haven is a small village nestled in the Rockies about twenty-five miles west of Loveland and some seven miles northeast of Estes Park. It lies in a little valley surrounded by hills and mountains where the North Fork of the Thompson River is joined by West Creek; and only a few hundred yards higher up another little stream, Fox Creek, flows into the North Fork. Glen Haven is located 7,200 feet above sea level.
Before 1895 Glen Haven was a protected and isolated spot. The only access was by trail and one can only imagine the beauty of the area in its natural state with an abundance of wildlife, meadows of wildflowers, and ranges of uncut pine.
The Big Thompson River from the foothills to Estes Park was first permanently settled about 1893 when a sawmill was located at Harding Heights by a party of men which included O.S. and Ira O. Knapp. Later in 1896, the Knapps brought the sawmill to Glen Haven, and in 1897 made the claims on the land which became the subdivision comprising what is now Glen Haven.
Soon after 1900, the Glen began to lose its outpost flavor. A summer tourist hotel was built near the foot of Devil’s Gulch. About this time the county took over the road from Estes Park to Drake. The famous hairpin turns were added to relieve the steepness of the pull by horse-drawn wagons. The roads were also improved to follow the streams instead of the perilous climb and descent over the hills and glades.
There was no place named Glen Haven until 1903 when the Presbyterian Assembly Association was established and the name ‘Glen Haven’ was adopted for the area. The location was determined to be promoted as a summer resort for Presbyterian people of the Boulder Presbytery. Quite a number of shares for tracts of ground were taken and modest cabins were erected. For $50 one could buy a lot with 100ft of North Fork frontage. A modest cabin could be built with $20 worth of lumber.
The big problem for summer residents at that time was water, for it had to be carried up from the North Fork to the cabin. Baths were taken in the frigid streams, fed by snowmelt about ten miles up in the mountains. None of the cabins had electric light, telephones, or other modern conveniences. A vacation in the Rockies was then looked upon as a brief return to nature.
The town grew at a leisurely pace with only 19 property stockholders at the end of 1903, and 30 at the end of 1904. The number rose to 70 in 1910. In the beginning, most of the stockholders came from Fort Collins. Aggressive promotion in Greeley turned Glen Haven into almost a second Greeley colony for a time. The character of the town, however, remained unchanged.
Civilization and Governance
The Glen Haven Store began operations in its present location in 1921. It was built by the Association and was leased out to an operator. In 1923, the 20-year term of the Presbyterian Assembly Association charter came to a close, and its directors decided to reincorporate as the ‘Glen Haven Resort’. There was no substantial change to the character of the town or the methods of organization. The primary function of the Association was to keep the roads and bridges in good condition and arrange for the sale or transfer of Association property. At this time the Association also raised trout and stocked the streams.
The Resort issued a report in 1929 listing improvements made to the town through good management. Improvements included: maintaining a U.S. Post Office, adding an ice house to the general store, starting a library, adding a half-mile of new roadway at the end of Fox Creek, acquiring machinery for road maintenance, removing diseased ‘beetle’ trees, correcting titles and maps, as well as planting Columbine seed near cabins along North Fork, Fox, and West Creeks. The report then said; ‘We want Glen Haven to be the most restful, enjoyable mountain home site in the country. We hope to avoid overcrowding and public commercialism and to retain as much as possible Glen Haven’s mountain wildness, and the simple neighborhood atmosphere, yet have as many conveniences as possible.’
Escape From Hard Times in Glen Haven
With unemployment widespread during the Great Depression, many came into the Glen to ‘hole up’ until conditions improved. According to one survivor, ‘we pooled our resources and lived on fish and wild meat.’ The Board had a meeting to consider building a church, but the Reverend stopped the idea by saying, ‘Let’s forget the church and put more fish in the stream.’ Another resident described the experience as a rather pleasant experience, relying on ‘ourselves for entertainment, which surprisingly enough is not a tough way to exist; potluck dinners at many houses, interminable bridge games and hoot in’ around the countryside when the weather was good.’
This time of quarantine has brought many part-time residents back for a quiet reprieve from city panic and hardship. Glen Haven has remained true to its early goals laid out by first residents: the mountain wildness and simple neighborhood atmosphere provide a beautiful sanctuary to wait out hard times.